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The other day I posted How to Plan for Thanksgiving (Part One). In this post, I will help you with more specifics concerning food shopping, flowers, make-ahead foods as well as foods cooked on the actual holiday. I know there are lots of steps and some may not apply to your style of entertaining. Just read along and focus on the parts that resonate with you. Happy planning.

How to Plan for Thanksgiving! Here is a sweet old-fashioned sign that I put up every year for Thanksgiving.

In this post...

One week before (on how to plan for Thanksgiving):

  1. Clean out your refrigerator and freezer. Since there are so many items to prepare, now is the perfect time to clean these two spots out. Toss out or finish up anything that’s almost empty. Wipe out the produce drawers so you are ready for the Big Grocery Shop on the weekend before the holiday. Clean out the freezer so you’ll have room for anything you bake ahead or for frozen items you need to store.
  2. Clean your oven now. If there are lots of old spills in your oven, trying to cook a big meal might result in a smoky kitchen.
  3. Make two grocery lists. The first list is of non-perishables such as stuffing mix, canned goods, and root veggies like sweet potatoes, and apples. On this list add gourds, little pumpkins, and anything 🍁🦃🍽🌾you will use for your table decor. The second list is of all the last-minute items such as fresh herbs 🌿, fresh salad 🥬 , ice, etc. The advantage to making two lists is that it helps you get organized and it increases the chance of buying most items before your store runs out!
Here's a photo of the various kitchen gadgets you will need on how to plan for Thanksgiving.
Here's a pretty pumpkin platter with a label on it that says, "turkey".  This will help get you organized for the Big Day!

4. Pull out all your platters, bowls, meat thermometers, kitchen twine, gravy boat, serving pieces, cheesecloth, gravy separator, large sheet pans, etc. Label the platters and serving bowls so you’ll know what goes where as well as avoid forgetting to serve a dish altogether!

5. Wash any wine 🍷 glasses, clear mugs 🍺, etc. that you will be using at the event.

The weekend before (on how to plan for Thanksgiving):

1. Go grocery shopping for the non-perishables.

2. Prepare as many dishes as you can in advance! This will really help you feel confident and less stressed.

3. Prepare any breads 🍞 and pie crusts 🥧 that can be frozen. (I make my cinnamon rolls and freeze them now.)

4. Set the table. This way you can look at it for several days and be excited 😊 about the Big Day 🍽🦃🍁rather than stressed 😩!

5. Relax and be proud that you’re way ahead of this holiday prep.

Two days before (Tuesday) (on how to plan for Thanksgiving):

  1. Go grocery shopping for last-minute items and flowers.
  2. Arrange your flowers💐. I buy mums if I’m using flowers as they’re hardy and can be made up several days early. I just cut them all one length and pop them in a container. Cut them lower than you think so that everyone can see everyone else while seated.
  3. Make any dishes that will be served chilled. Cover them with Saran Wrap and forget about them until Thursday. (I’ll make cranberry applesauce🍎🍊🍏now). Be sure to chill the canned cranberries now. As well as any white or sparkling wines.
  4. Cut up any raw vegetables that you’ll need for all the recipes and store them in Ziploc bags. (I’ll cut veggies 🌶 for the stuffing, for the crudités, for my spiced apple 🍏, cranberry and pecan salad 🥗, and my brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and pomegranate seed veggie dish now.)
  5. Make nuts for the salad mentioned above.
  6. Make any pastries that can be kept for two days. (I make my pecan bars now.)

One day before (Wednesday) (on how to plan for Thanksgiving):

  1. Make any recipes that you can make ahead. (I make my broth which goes in my gravy and my salad 🥗 dressing now.)
  2. Write out your oven timeline for tomorrow. THIS IS KEY!!! Do this NOW so you can relax tomorrow. Make it as detailed as possible so you can just follow along the schedule without having to think too much. Be sure to list oven times for anyone needing to bake or warm their brought dishes.
  3. Empty the dishwasher before bed. Empty all the trash 🗑 containers and put multiple liners in the bottom so any helpers won’t be looking for them during Showtime.

Thanksgiving 🍁🦃🌾🥧 Day !!! (on how to plan for Thanksgiving!):

  1. Eat breakfast so you will feel energized pulling off this Feast
  2. Follow your timeline. Be sure to take your turkey 🦃 out of the fridge two to two and a half hours before starting to roast it because it takes that long to come to room temperature which will ensure more even cooking. Follow your cooking schedule for the big bird. (My recipe involves cooking a turkey that’s already been cut up by the butcher into two legs, two thighs, two boneless breasts, and two wings. It’s so much easier to cook this way! Check out the recipe! No major last-minute carving, no big carcass for the dog 🐶 to try and steal…
  3. Finish assembling your stuffing.
  4. I’ll make my cider early in the day and leave it on the stove for my guests to serve themselves.
  5. I’ll also assemble my salad,
  6. Put the cranberries and the applesauce in their dishes. *** Be sure to enlist help from your family and guests. That’s a chance to lighten your load and maybe have some one-on-one time with all your “helpers”.
  7. Put out your appetizers early for you and your guests to enjoy.
  8. Serve a cocktail. (I’ll serve a delicious pomegranate Prosecco drink now.). A cool trick to chill wine first is to wrap a damp dish towel around the bottle and then pop it into the freezer for 15 minutes ONLY (set your phone timer for this or ask Siri to time this for you). Then pop the bottle into the fridge. Don’t drink more than one cocktail 🍹 now as you’ve got a lot to still pull off...
  9. Heat your sides while the bird cooks or while it rests. A carved turkey 🦃 will need 45 minutes to “rest” after it is done. That means once the bird reaches 165 degrees on the meat thermometer, take it out of the oven and put it on a carving board that has a “juice rim” on it. The juice rim catches the juice that initially oozes out of the bird. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil for the above-noted 45 minutes. This resting period gives the turkey a chance for the juices to seep back into the bird from the cutting board. It also gives the chef(s) time to make the sides and gravy. (Here’s when I make my Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and pomegranate seed dish, and when the sweet potatoes get reheated).
  10. Pour the water. Great tasks to off-load to your family and guests include pouring the water, lighting the candles, last-minute ice run from the store, washing the early dishes, bringing sides to the table… Don’t be shy. Your family and friends love you. And they’re glad they’re not hosting. Enjoy their help. Really!
  11. We serve all the dishes buffet style. While people are going down the buffet, I light the table candles and get my dog 🐶 a bone 🦴 so he can chow down with all of us. (Here’s my favorite trick: Right now, I put the cinnamon rolls in the oven for 7-8 minutes, tops. I set a timer ⏱ on my phone which is in my apron pocket. As soon as the timer goes off I grab the rolls and walk them around to my guests. It’s great because everyone is already seated and they have a teensy bit of room on their plate for my favorite side😊!)
  12. After all this, we usually clear the table and just start washing the dishes. We sit around the table and talk and laugh and remember what we’re thankful for until we feel ready for dessert 🥧!

13. Hopefully your family and guests will do the dishes while you have a much-deserved cocktail 🍹 and some serious couch 🛋 time!!!

14. Congratulations 🎉🍾🎊! You did it!!!! Save your timeline from this year (maybe in your phone 📱) and add any ideas 💡/changes for next year!). You can always come up with easier ways on how to plan for Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you my wonderful subscribers!  I am so grateful for all your kind comments and suggestions.  This blog has been such an adventure for me!  I love sharing with all of you.  Please drop me a comment telling me which idea sounds good to you.  Your comments help me, (and hopefully you) to have an even more FUN and FULL LIFE!!!!  


Dr. Julie 

PS Here are a few more fun posts for you to enjoy:

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